Al Carbone, alone, bridges, Burano, Caffe Saraceno, Case Western Reserve University, celebrities, dining, eating, Europe, glass factory, gondolas, Guglie, hostel, islands, Italy, Lido, Murano, painted houses, pigeons, restaurants, Rialto, San Marco, solo, student, Taylor Swift, tickets, travel, Venetian lace, Venetian masks, Venice, water bus, water route, weather
To be honest, I don’t like Venice very much. It’s beautiful, sure, but it is jam-packed with tourists, you can walk forever just to find a damn bridge to take you across the Grand Canal, it’s too easy to get frustratingly lost, and being here has you trapped in tourist prices, gimmicks, and crowds. I couldn’t imagine living here. I would move just because of all the people in my nonexistent backyard every hour of the day. Plus, the weather is hot and sticky now. The mosquitos make sitting outside for dinner a pain. I try to venture the back alleys as much as I can and am often pleasantly surprised by the lack of crowds and the abundance of picturesque scenes, but the real action is along the busy canal.
This morning, I slept through my alarm to see the sunrise. I was okay with this due to my lack of sleep last night and the next morning’s availability. I woke up just in time to say bye to Jade for the last time. I double-checked my train tickets to France and was disappointed (yes, disappointed) that I don’t leave until late tomorrow night. What to do with all of that time?? I looked up ferries and trains to Croatia, Slovenia, and even San Marino and decided it was too long to get there. Today I would just use the pass to see the islands.
With so many options for eating, I debated getting crepes somewhere like at a stand I had seen previously. But now it was almost lunch…deciding to make a game out of it, I googled pictures of celebrities in Venice at what must be good places to eat. I found one of Taylor Swift eating outside and recognized the bridge behind her and set off for the Grand Canal. Unfortunately, I first assumed the wrong bridge. I realized I needed the one not by the train station but Rialto, in the other direction from my hostel. I got on the closest water bus and, naturally, guessed the wrong route. I wanted to try the ticket Jade gave me but I didn’t study how it works. I ended up going the wrong way up the canal, past Guglie, and out towards the eastern face of the main part of Venice. I got off at the largest stop where boats meet to go to the other islands. From here, I walked due south to the bridge.
Finding which restaurant it was was simple. Although several had the same awning and similar lanterns, only one had the same maroon and gold napkins. I took a seat at Caffe Saraceno, facing the bridge that was visible behind Taylor in the photo. I was so glad I tried this approach; the place was perfect. Everything was delicious (and reasonable), and the waiters were pleasant, even singing aloud. I had chardonnay, salad, cappuccino, and a cheese platter with bread and olives. When I was done, I returned to the station I had gotten off at and chose the correct boat for Murano Island.
I had been hoping to make it to Murano, Burano, and Lido for the beach in one day, but I didn’t put myself on a schedule based on the boats and ended up spending too much time waiting for a ride. At Murano, I walked around several streets taking photos. The island is known for its glass. I didn’t go into the glass factory, but I went to a few shops and into an old church near where I got off the boat. I bought a cool drink because the heat and humid was getting ridiculous in the early afternoon. When I had had enough, I occupied some time with a beer beside the dock until my boat arrived.
From Murano, it was an unexpectedly long 20 or so minutes to Burano. I preferred Burano just because it was smaller and there were so many more things to photograph. Murano had a residential section, but I wandered into it and it was dull. Burano, on the other hand, is nearly all residential and the houses are painted vivid colors that clash with the house beside it. There was also a church with a crooked steeple, leaning much like the tower in Pisa. This island sold lace. Although I got some glass figurines at Murano, I did not get lace at Burano; instead, I bought a cat mask I had wanted as a souvenir.
It was already close to dinnertime, so I decided to save the beach for tomorrow. Going back to the main island meant backtracking, so I had a good 30 or 40 minute boat ride ahead of me. And, of course, I had to wait another half hour for the boat itself…so I bought some hazelnut and chocolate-mint gelato and watched as it melted as soon as I tried to lick it clean. When the boat arrived, I stood and hung over the rail the whole way to catch the breeze and got off at the biggest port. I chose to walk home through the alleys, this time not needing a map. I got back to my hostel, showered and uploaded my photos so I had space for more, and put on another dress to go back out.
I decided to have dinner on the southern end of the island, closer to the sunset. I walked to Guglie, took the proper boat to San Marco square. The sun was going down over Italy as we skimmed the shores of the Adriatic Sea. When I finally reached my stop, the boat rocked so hard into the dock that it sent the gondolas crashing against the banks in front of us. I had long learned that sitting in the bottom wasn’t fun; the rudder makes too much noise and the boat sounds like it’s scraping boulders every time it slows up or changes direction.
When I got off of the boat and headed towards the square, I got to take photos in the sunset of things Jade and I took in the middle of the morning last night. I came into the open space to find flocks of pigeons and people feeding them. The pigeons began jumping into open hands, full or not with food, and I joined the numerous people tricking the pigeons to land on our outstretched arms for a snack. I would have given one had I had one, but I got two pigeons on my left arm anyway. I then tried to help another lady in catching her own. Afterwards, I wandered aimlessly for about thirty minutes before asking a gondola driver how much it costs to ride in his boat. “100 Euros,” he told me. I laughed and turned around. “80 if it is in the day,” he said quickly. “H’okay…” I said, not impressed, and continued to walk away. “Even less if you have friends! Where are your friends?” I had had enough, knowing that price was outrageous even for a gondola in Venice. “I don’t have friends, sorry,” I said, walking away and feeling a little smug.
This time I decided to wander to find a random place along the Grand Canal. I ended up choosing Ristorante Al Carbon, forgetting that eating by the bridge was likely a tourist trap. The other restaurant had been so wonderful, I thought this one would be too. There were two sets of couples by the riverside, then one girl by herself opposite the entrance from me. Not long after I had ordered, my food was in front of me and the tables beside me were being torn down. Before long, it was just me and the girl and our drinks. My food was alright, but it was made so quickly I knew it was already done. The wine was so watered down that I was ready to complain when the girl and I were both given a free slushy dessert drink of sorts. When I saw the bill and how the wine was cheaper than my Sprite, I decided to live with it, paid it, and went to leave. As I stood up, I found a 50 cent (Euro) coin on the ground and took it. Maybe that means something?
I walked to the water bus stop in front of me, avoiding a crazy, crooked man singing out loud and dragging his one foot. I stood on the dock with some others, then started to leave when I saw the bus that was coming was in the opposite direction. I could see no other lights. I preferred walking for whatever reason, so I left to walk back with my music on. About halfway home, I went to cross a bridge when a frantic kid with a huge backpack crossed the bridge and grabbed a British couple, asking for directions. He had a printed paper in his hand. I immediately took out my headphones to try to eavesdrop because something told me he was looking for my hostel. I walked past without hearing anything. The couple was trying to help him. I passed the bridge again, looking in some windows, but I couldn’t hear. I went back a third time to where I first turned around, then stood in front of a store, debating what to do. I should just keep going, I thought, but I really, really, really think he needs my help… I walked near the gondolas under the bridge and could see his backpack and the couple walking away from it. Suddenly, he came back across and I made my move.
I told him I felt bad to be standing around but I really was wondering if he was looking for my hostel…and he was! He is from South Korea, doesn’t speak much English, and was two hours late for check-in. He was so relieved I had stopped him and I was so glad, too, because I don’t think he would have ever found it in the dark. I knew the crowd coming out soon would be drunk and that would add to the confusion. We walked for a long time, talking as much as we could. He told me he is coming from France and is only staying a day. I told him I am leaving tomorrow for France. We made it to the hostel, I struggled with my key in the door, and we were met by a group of people including the owner. He got checked in. Lucky guy. I came back to a full room now that Jade is gone. I would go back out tonight, but I think it makes more sense just to sleep and see the sunrise. I can go out early evening tomorrow. Hopefully the hostel will let me keep my bags inside.
Wow…what a tiring, tiring day…